Emmy and Tony winner David Hyde Pierce is currently winning laughs in Christopher Durang’s Chekhov-inspired comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Pierce plays Vanya, an lonely gay man who lives with his spinster sister Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) in a house paid for by their glamorous movie star sibling Masha (Sigourney Weaver). When Masha and her boytoy come to visit, Vanya and Sonia’s static lives are thrown into a tailspin. Best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of Dr. Niles Crane on the hit sitcom Frasier, Pierce is a true creature of the theater, having notably appeared in Le Bete, Accent on Youth, Curtains (Tony Award) and Spamalot. Broadway.com recently caught up with the popular star to discuss Vanya, a possible Frasier reunion and the two new musicals he is developing.
How is Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike going?
Very well! We’re having a good time and so is the audience.
Beyond Therapy was your first professional job. How does it feel to reunite with Christopher Durang 30 years later?
I have to say it’s very emotional. I feel like it was not only the thing that launched me professionally, but also the thing that made me want to be in the business professionally. The whole reason I had come to New York was to find out whether I was interested enough in this business to pursue it for a living, and that was the show that made me say “yes.” So it’s very important to me. Chris and I have kept in touch, but this is the first time I’ve gotten to do one of his plays in a long time.
How did this project happen for you?
Chris e-mailed me. I think he originally wrote the part for himself to play, and then felt like he wanted to be able to be more objective and have someone else do it. And it fit perfectly in a slot between commitments I already had, so it seems like it was meant to be.
Is there anything about sharing the stage with Sigourney Weaver that surprised you?
No. She is as wonderful as I knew she would be, both as an actor and just a person to hang out with. The whole show has been beautifully cast, not just from the standpoint of how well people play their parts, but how well people play together. We also have a great mix of older people who have been doing this a long time and young people who are much newer to the business but extremely gifted. I think we all learn from each other and are inspired by each other.
Did winning the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical affect your career choices in any way?
It had no effect on the choices I made. I think mainly it was important to the cast of [Curtains]; it meant a lot to me and it’s awfully nice to have that title by your name.
In your illustrious career, what do you consider your luckiest break?
I’ve had a career of lucky breaks. In almost every job, I’ve come to a point where I said, “Man, if I never work again after this it would have been worth it just to do this job.” That has happened to me so many times that I’ve stopped counting.
Sounds like a dream come true.
And it just it keeps coming true. Vanya is a great example of something I couldn’t have dreamed of: to be reunited with Chris [Durang], to be working on a play that I really love and believe in, with this company, and to be able to do it at Lincoln Center with [artistic director] Andre Bishop. My connection to him goes all the way back to the 80s, the only other time I worked at the Mitzi Newhouse. I was Bill Irwin’s understudy in Mike Nichols’ production of Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin, Robin Williams and F. Murray Abraham. I used to sit every performance on the lighting grid and watch that show. Of course, no actor in his right mind would have missed one of those performances. So just to be back in that space and be reminded of those days is a very full experience for me.
In October, Cheers had a 30-year reunion. Any chance at a 20-year Frasier reunion in 2013?
Is it 20 years? Oh my God. Well, I may be too depressed to answer that question right now. We tend to have private reunions. We all see each other from time to time and that may be better for everyone.
Having been in people’s living rooms for so many years, you must have had some interesting encounters with fans.
The most memorable ones are the ones that continue to happen where people say that they were going through some terrible, terrible tough time in their lives and they would turn on [Frasier] and it would make them laugh, and how much that meant to them. That wasn’t our goal when we set out to do the show, but I think that’s the most meaningful.
What’s new with the musical you’re directing, It Shoulda Been You [featuring book and lyrics by Pierce's partner, Brian Hargrove]?
The plan is to bring it to Broadway next fall. We were looking at this spring, but so was everyone else on the planet. Our show is a smaller scale show, and so we all felt maybe we should wait until the fall where there's a bit less pressure and we might have a better chance of being seen.
Is it too soon to tell if your acclaimed cast [including Tyne Daly, Harriet Harris, Edward Hibbert and Howard McGillin] will be on board for Broadway?
Tyne is committed. Some people have gone on to other shows, so I couldn’t tell you we have the whole cast, but certainly our designers are all on board, and much of the cast. We did another reading a month ago and have put in some changes. We keep honing it, but we all really believe in it, and we think there’s a place for it on Broadway.
What’s next for you after Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?
I had done a workshop at the Vineyard of a new musical The Landing, and we're going to do a full production at the beginning of next season. I don’t think they’ve set an exact date for that. I had blocked out the spring in case we were going to do It Shoulda Been You on Broadway, but now that that’s free, I may just read a book!
See David Hyde Pierce’s comical and moving performance in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Lincoln Center Theater's MItzi E. Newhouse Theater.